Even though DevOps is a mainstream technology for achieving agility, organizations struggle to scale and optimize their DevOps practices. While proactive Strategy, Tools & Technologies, Automation, Soft Skills, or Metrics are helpful, but alone they are not enough.
At this moment, there is a strong focus on talent. In the light of DevOps evolution, the challenges begin from hiring and retaining resources, cost considerations, training expenditures on each resource and quickly translates to the complex challenge of skills gap in DevOps resources. The issue is not only growing for a single organization but across the industry. The Upskilling 2020: Enterprise DevOps Skills Report talks about the rise of DevOps skill gaps in detail. The report mentions the increase of CI-CD tools, the rise of Site Reliability Engineering practices, lack of human skills, new-age automation, and value stream management practices as factors widening this gap.
DevOps outsourcing model can fix the skills shortage gap and help organizations bring the various facets of the business marching forward in a synchronized fashion. But moving to DevOps outsourcing without a clear blueprint for both the parties (Client and DevOps Services Provider) runs the risk of a gridlock slowing or stopping the DevOps program leading to huge financial setbacks.
What can you Outsource in DevOps?
DevOps Outsourcing and Advisory can involve several areas. The specifications under each area can be tailored as per the client and project’s need, team topology, application structure, and budgets:
- DevOps End-to-End Implementation
- CI-CD Pipeline Orchestration
- Infrastructure as Code
- Application Release Automation
- Microservices Architecture
- Cloud Migration & Managed Services
Effective DevOps Outsourcing
Outsourcing experiences have a mixed reputation based on the model and partners chosen. With DevOps, there’s no-one-size that fits all making these experiences very contextual and outsourcing arrangement-dependent. This article starts a conversation about leveraging the outsourcing model to scale DevOps program for organizations and choose the right partner.
1. Build a Governance framework using Target Operating Model (TOM)
Outsourcing arrangements can certainly hamstring both the Client and DevOps Services Provider by a siloed handoffs approach leading to a sizeable difference in agreed-upon results and outcomes. The upshot is financial and business risks for either or both parties. Clients want value-driven DevOps and look for Service Providers who understand end-to-end software development lifecycle. A Governance framework outlining important people, policies, technologies, and processes is very important to iron out any issues that might arise.
Arrange a working model for both the offshore and onshore teams to work in collaboration. If the client is looking for people to augment their teams then they have a say in the tools, capabilities, processes, and technology. If it is a Managed Services engagement model, then the DevOps services provider manages end-to-end implementation. Enforcing too much authority and control over processes will kill the complementary capabilities like Agile, Cloud, Testing, Application Architecture, and Security. Follow a smart approach to utilize them.
With communication and collaboration tools, smooth handoffs and complete visibility is possible. Moreover, the codified builds, check-ins, infrastructure, and monitoring remove the wall between teams in outsourcing arrangements.
DevOps Services Provider knows the business needs and offers an external industry perspective and expertise. Client knows the application, customer profile, and their end-objectives. Both can work together to displace differences and build a one-team mindset for a successful partnership using the TOM model.
The next step is using TOM for applying governance framework by using inter-related dimensions of capabilities, functions, tooling, processes, people, organizational structure, and roles and responsibilities. Organizations can pick the best bits for Governance and take advantage by integrating them into the governance model:
- DevOps Outsourcing areas - Identify key service areas for Service Providers and assess their capabilities using metrics. Evaluate current processes and seek CI-CD improvement ideas.
- Get value out of outsourced areas - Speak to the Service Provider about services delivery using DevOps capabilities, processes, and CI-CD toolchains.
- Talk about Culture - Build a one-team, one-culture mindset between both teams. Replacing hierarchies across teams will facilitate a better flow of ideas.
- Review, Roles, and Responsibilities - Regularly review deliverables against timelines using governance model and framework. Outline responsibilities for service delivery and support using DevOps roles and organizational structure.
Best of the teams run into difficulties in meeting deadlines or delivering quality-compromised applications. To overcome such instances, design an escalation matrix to resolve problems at a lower level. The levels and team structure will change based on the small, mid, and large-sized organizations. Here’s some help:
|Escalation Level||DevOps Service Provider Team||Escalation Categories and Governance|
2. DevOps Service Provider Capabilities
Assess fluency for CI-CD tooling, projects, working & delivery methodologies, and technical expertise of DevOps Engineers. Evaluate complementary capabilities like Cloud, Quality Engineering, Test Automation practices, and DevSecOps.
- T-shaped DevOps Engineers – A T-shaped role entails varying levels of tech expertise and knowledge areas. With T-shaped skills, organizations can get the maximum throughput with minimal resources.
- Proven Success Stories – Learn as much as possible about the Service Provider’s success stories, areas of expertise, different industries & clients they have worked with, and the value add they bring to the table. Look for tangible answers like Cost-Benefit Analysis, Dashboards & Metrics, and ability to provide references, etc.
- Technology Stack – Service Providers with experience of varied technology stack can augment the whole process of Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Continuous Innovation. Check the whole technology stack and how comfortable are they in introducing new technological skills if required.
- In-house Accelerators – Hands-on experience of developing in-house frameworks go a long way for any DevOps Service Provider. This makes them stand out in the market than the regular run-of-the-mill DevOps outsourcing and advisory companies.
3. Open Scope Contracting
Consider Open-Source Contracting where Innovation, Operations, and Culture Management are deemed part of the contract. The Closed-Scope contracting experience law of diminishing returns with controlled and static work methods. It considers functional and technical designs and result-oriented service descriptions. Open-Scope Contracting considers value stream generation, delivery, and management that move according to the dynamic nature of changing business requirements. Both the Client and DevOps Services Provider must frame a working method to plan the DevOps roadmap with necessary arrangements for modifications when required.
For example, start with DevOps assessments and the Fixed Price Model approach for 2 to 3 sprints. Keep these sprints focused on Service Provider performance. To start with, Define MVP and Definition of Done for these sprints.
Ensuring outsourcing success is a function of several things involving both the parties:
- No surprises in terms of product planning, business vision, and development handoffs.
- Examine, assess, and cross-refer existing development process against known SLAs and performance.
- Breaking down complex iterative changes into small and shorter sprints to manage the uncertainties.
- Incremental improvement and delivery approach with flexibility.
- Break down silos with fewer handoffs and maximizing collaboration.
- T-shaped resources with rich experience.
4. Pricing Model
- Time and Material (T&M) Contract
When it comes to Agile/DevOps engagements, fixed-price contracts are flawed, to say the least. Under Fixed price contracts, the product features, timelines, and costs are considered. The potential risks of missing deadlines, releasing a flawed or outdated product, and customer issues are high. The T&M contracts restructure the development process between Client and Services provider making the outsourcing arrangement value-driven. With the T&M contract, both parties consider the dynamic nature of software development like ever-changing requirements, implementing new tools and technologies, culture change management, managing cloud, and ops.
- Dedicated Team Model
Well-advanced planning in today’s software development environment is a distant dream. The changing business landscape and client requirements require quick iterations in each sprint. The Dedicated Team Model enables sourcing teams to allocate limited resources intelligently, without context switching, and exclusively for a single project. Betting on a dedicated DevOps team saves operating and training costs, brings in innovative ideas and, and help in continuing the relationship for the long-term.
5. Culture Transformation
Whether in-house or outsourced, culture change is never easy in DevOps. It forces teams to step out of their comfort zones and collaborate on contradicting incentives. Outsourcing makes it more challenging, but it is achievable. The four rules of Culture Transformation in Outsourcing are:
Rule #1. Don’t start with either Client or Service Provider employees. Instead, involve everyone with a special focus on DevOps champions and leaders.
Rule #2. Don’t start by providing tools and technology training. Instead, educate them about the new collaboration between offshore/onshore teams. This leads to a firm and a better understanding of service and delivery excellence. Work together to define the process and later introduce tools to enable this process change.
Rule #3. Don’t pilot the change from one end. Instead, go together and go agile to build momentum for a new culture.
Rule #4. Don’t focus on traditional contract metrics during outsourcing. Build and focus on leading “transformation metrics” for value-generation.
An open mind and transparency between both parties can evolve from traditional outsourcing to creating a strategic, functional partnership.
6. DevOps Performance and Measurement
While sourcing organizations want DevOps Service Providers to be the most in-depth DevOps transformation experts; they need to understand the right performance metrics and ways to adhere to them. Continuously pushing product requirements, release timelines, and changing metrics can lead to disengaged offshore teams.
Instead of measuring how many hours of training developers take or get picked up by the number of bug bounties or several automated test-cases; measure the actual metrics like Mean Time to Recover, Change Volume, Deployment Frequency, Application Usage, Traffic & Performance, Automated Test Percentage and more. Organizations can use standard and widely accepted DORA metrics to track software delivery stability and throughput.
DORA metrics specifically measure Deployment Frequency (DF), Mean Lead Time for changes (MLT), Mean Time to Recover (MTTR), and Change Failure Rate (CFR). Based on the numbers, organizations can determine their success in DevOps – from elite performers to low performers. This helps organizations to benchmark against industry and competitors. For this reason, business teams are interested in DORA metrics. And if the outsourcing arrangement is working right, these metrics will continue to improve.
Recap and Advice
Outsourcing creates the right mix of DevOps talent and technical resources, helps in tapping the industry talent pool beyond the local one. This helps in achieving faster delivery, better automation, and value-driven outcomes. However, the success of outsourcing depends on choosing the right expertise and experience.
Thus, when looking for a reliable outsourcing partner, organizations must do rigorous homework, build a robust governance model (even if it takes little to and fro), assess capabilities of selected Service Providers, and make sure they are talking about Culture and Metrics. In the fungible but limited talent environment, as an industry, we need to do much better and very soon to create a strategic and functional partnership.
Qentelli’s DevOps Consulting and Advisory Services
With the remarkable strength of over 250+ DevOps engineers, we combine innovation (with in-house accelerators), business understanding with deep expertise across various industries to offer a full spectrum of DevOps services. Additionally, we extend our technology and business capabilities through strategic and business partnerships with market leaders and innovators in the DevOps space. Evolve your DevOps at the pace of business with DevOps services from Qentelli. Drop us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org